AAA renews debate on length of I-95 Express Lanes

Hank Silverberg,

WASHINGTON – Construction of the new Express Lanes on Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia has reopened the debate on why the project won’t go all the way to the D.C. line.

On WTOP, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson again pointed the finger at Arlington County for filing a lawsuit that led to a decision to shorten the Express Lanes.

The Express Lanes also have been referred to as the High Occupancy Toll Lanes or HOT Lanes. The project involves constructing 29 miles of Express Lanes from I-95 from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to Edsall Road on I-395 in Fairfax County.

But Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman says the lawsuit had nothing to do with wanting or not wanting the Express Lanes. In 2011, Arlington dropped its lawsuit that challenged the environmental impact of the HOT Lanes.

Zimmerman says the jury is still out on the overall design of the project.

“Can you add more into it, in a way that doesn’t make things worse but actually makes it better? I think that’s an unanswered question,” says Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says there’s still no evidence the Express Lanes will move traffic any faster, anywhere.

Anderson says the pressure from Arlington has been similar to the decision in the 1970s to keep Interstate 66 at four lanes inside the Beltway. He points to existing backups there.

“It happens right at the Beltway on 66 where three quarters of the commuters have to bale,” says Anderson.

The stretch into D.C. from the Beltway, only four lanes, is HOV-2 during rush hour, meaning only cars with two or more people can use it.

Zimmerman says blaming Arlington for that isn’t accurate.

“It’s convenient for everyone to say ‘Oh, yah, yah, those people in Arlington,’ but the truth matter is they don’t begin to have money for the kind of project this is,” says Zimmerman.

Widening I-66 inside the Beltway where there are several overpasses, no existing rights-of-way and the Rosslyn tunnel would cost a half a billion dollars.

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